The field of Internationalism is focusing more and more on the importance of second language acquisition and bilingual education since primary years. That is because social and cultural demands, together with the expansion of a multicultural society and mobility, are among the main objects of discussion within EU. It is furthermore clear that Europe is investing in supporting bilingualism/second language acquisition through different actions.
BYOD and bilingual education in primary school: a 100% technoCLIL approach
The spread of CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) is giving a new appeal to language teaching and so are new technologies for teaching with webtools used for didactic aims. In such a context, the importance of digital devices, which are daily explored by our students, is reaching a new level of discussion. It is here that the philosophy of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is becoming more and more relevant, even in primary schools. Children are digital natives and they feel more motivated if they can experiment through tools which appear to them more appealing and at hand. And, of course, using digital devices as further means of education, allows our students to be more responsible and have more knowledge about eSafety and the risks surrounding the net.
I speak based on experience. After years of teaching in upper secondary schools, I moved to primary school because of a project of bilingual education sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Education, together with the regional school office of Lombardy and British Council. Six national schools started the IBI-BEI project (7 hours per week in English per class, since year 1 of primary school, with three subjects taught entirely in English language). The project came to an end but it was proposed to include the experience in the school curriculum. Each school chose its new educational offer: no less than 5 hours per week in English, since year one and switching to a CLIL approach more than just one or two subjects in English language. At the same time, new schools appeared to the horizon, looking for a similar experience and they were given the chance of starting new experimental projects of bilingual education with CLIL modules.
I am completing the cycle of primary school with my students who are now finishing primary school (they are in grade 5) and I was asked to start a new project in another school, with a technoCLIL (CLIL through webtools and ICT) approach.
Two years ago, thanks to eTwinning and TechnoCLIL courses (I am a CLIL teacher trainer, too), we were awarded the Quality Label and the eTwinning School Label. In a Padlet we cooperated with schools from different parts of Europe (this one was reopened this year for the “Democratic participation” spring campaign of eTwining). Last year I started proposing webtools in my classes, opening different “padlets” for the different modules in the bilingual education curriculum (Walk Like an Egyptian, The VIPs of the UK, William Shakespeare Rocks). The modules for this school year are: A Wonderful World, Englishman in New York, The Beautiful People and The Final Countdown.
During this last year, I experimented with BYOD classes. After asking my principal and parents’ permission, I explained BYOD to my students – who reacted excitedly to the opportunity. For one hour a week they had the chance of using their own devices to study and revise in English. They could use the different tools I showed them, according to the activities I had arranged for them. This way, they could experience flipped classroom, too. Digital devices were also used to be in touch with other schools, working in partnership and to take part in special events, such as EU CodeWeek, the Hour of Code, World Water Day, STEM Discovery Week, eSafety Day, Europe Day, eTwinning Day, etc. A striking result from this experience was represented by the percentage of students participating from home in online cooperative works and the percentage of students’ awareness in the responsible use of mobiles and other digital devices. Parents also confirmed that even at home, students preferred to use mobiles to create maps or digital works or game-based learning apps rather than to simply playing video games or mobile games. As a final result we can confirm that the linguistic competence was reinforced also due to the online interaction and the constant use of English.
Apart from their visible works on the Padlet, students’ high level of English was confirmed by their excellent results in the COMPANION Action-Research, the YLE-Cambridge Examinations and also by scoring higher than the standard Italian students in INVALSI test. They use English as a tool for multiple purposes: studying different subjects (CLIL), applying technology to study (TechnoCLIL) and everyday life. Furthermore, they use ICT and technology as a tool to reinforce their language. So far, we can say that the BYOD method, combined with the TechnoCLIL experience in our classes had far-reaching positive impact and we hope other schools can start such a journey.
Author: Angela Panzarella